Sports and osteoarthritis

Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2004 Sep;16(5):634-9. doi: 10.1097/01.bor.0000132647.55056.a9.


Purpose of review: Participation in sports improves general health but increases the risk of osteoarthritis. This review analyzes the relationships among increased joint use, joint injuries, and injury-induced joint degeneration that causes posttraumatic osteoarthritis. The purpose is to help people who participate in sports minimize their risk of joint degeneration.

Recent findings: Participation in sports that cause minimal joint impact and torsional loading by people with normal joints and neuromuscular function may cause osteophyte formation, but it has minimal, if any, effect on the risk of osteoarthritis. In contrast, participation in sports that subject joints to high levels of impact and torsional loading increases the risk of injury-induced joint degeneration. People with abnormal joint anatomy or alignment, previous joint injury or surgery, osteoarthritis, joint instability, articular surface incongruity or dysplasia, disturbances of joint or muscle innervation, or inadequate muscle strength have increased risk of joint damage during participation in athletics.

Summary: Gaining the benefits of participation in athletics while minimizing the risk of osteoarthritis requires understanding of the relationships between sports participation and joint injury and the relationships between joint injury and joint degeneration. People who wish to participate in sports should have an evaluation of their joint structure and function, muscle strength, and neuromuscular function, and people with a history of joint injury or mild osteoarthritis should select sports that have limited risk of accelerating joint degeneration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Athletic Injuries / complications*
  • Athletic Injuries / pathology*
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis / etiology*
  • Osteoarthritis / pathology*
  • Sports*